Outside my window, the backyard is usually abundant with green leafy vegetables, colorful flowers, and trees bursting with foliage. But as the days grow cold, and light is precious, the vegetables die back, the flowers shrivel and disperse in dust, the trees drop their once massive leaves.
I sat on the patio this morning reading Norman Vincent Peale. I set the book aside, and looked around the garden. My landlady had cleared out the dead branches, raked up the leaves, pruned the bushes, pulled up any lingering vegetable plants. I looked around and saw the death that signals autumn.
Yet the sun shone warmly on my hatless head. Birds tweeted. A biplane motored softly into the distance. A lovely summer day in the midst of fall. And there, right in front of me, a yellow rose grew on a trim bush.
How could I have missed the rose? My gaze had taken in all that wasn’t, and missed this small miracle thriving directly under my nose. I got up to smell it, because it’s written that one must stop whatever one is doing to smell the roses, and this tiny flower offered the most magnificent scent.
How often do we overlook the sweetness in life? How often do our squirrelly minds rack up a laundry list of everything that’s wrong in the world? My back hurts. My teeth are crooked. My shoulders are stiff, my neck is cranky. I can’t sleep. I oversleep. My hair is too thin or unruly, too curly or straight.
And that’s just the body. It’s not enough to find fault in our immediate surrounding; no, we must search outside ourselves, too.
My desk is cluttered. My shelves are dusty. The wall needs painting, the rug needs replacing. My mattress is too hard or too soft, too lumpy or thin, too small or so vast that I feel lost and alone in it.
But it’s not enough, is it, confining our dissatisfaction to what houses our bodies. We must look even farther afield. The driveway is cracked. The road has potholes. The grocery store is too big or too small, has too many choices or not enough. Those people in line are too noisy or shifty or sneezy or slow or just plain annoying. It’s probably their fault that my taxes are too high, my medical plan too expensive, my health or job or children at risk, and my life a living hell.
And yet…and yet…there, overlooked by our critical eye, a rose offers a magnificent scent. The woman in front of you lets you go ahead because you have just the one item, a small bottle of cough syrup. The sour-looking clerk lights up when you wish her a great rest-of-your-day. Your car, a clunker with high mileage, still gets you safely home. Amidst the dust on your shelves sits a photo of your daughter at the age of eight. A painting of the seashore covers a crack in your wall. The sun slants onto your bed from one to two o’clock, making a cozy nest for reading a novel. A solitary rose grows on the vine.
This week, look for the rose. Lift your gaze and notice the smile. Focus on the stretch of road free of potholes. Firmly set aside the laundry list in your mind and visualize a sunny nesting spot instead.
This week, be the rose for someone else.